In which Jon Black and Dan Nadolny review the trailer for Step Up: Revolution.
D: This film will not be a monetary success. Far from it, in fact. I’ll hazard a guess that it rips in and out of theaters in under six days, and was only produced to absolve someone at Touchstone from imprisonment-level trouble with the IRS. That said, Step Up: Revolution has the distinct, nutty essence of a blockbuster. Literally.You see, the gyrating stars of our tale are enthusiastic young turks who glisten with permanent gym dew and a sexual gravity weighty enough to send even the Pope’s pants quickly to his ankles. Their mission (er, cause for “revolution”) is to halt a block-busting mega-hotel construction (and presumably, the destruction of their native dancing-coitus-robot breeding grounds) through a series of protest-themed flash mobs. Never in the history of this franchise has the need for organized public disturbance seemed so dire.
J: Any movie with this many disparate elements all randomly jammed together just has to succeed. And Step Up: Revolution has…EVERYTHING! Bouncing cars. Bouncing body-bits. Internet fads that are 100% totally still relevant today, not just three years ago when somebody pitched this movie to the studio. And the anti-corporate social message and the romance (read “basic cable PG-13 sweatiness”) and what promises to be the defining musical-dance-fight scene of the Auto-Tune Age–dare I say the best musical-dance-fight scene since MJ’s “Beat It?” It’s like The Fast and the Furious meets Flashdance meets Footloose meets The Goonies meets West Side Story meets Occupy Wall Street all thrown in a blender and put up on YouTube. Hey real estate development industry, you just got served!
But it’s not about the money, it’s about the message…that dancing is not a crime! Large, choreographed, unpermitted, traffic-blocking street parties are not a crime! Well, okay, technically they are, but then again I’m no longer a young turk, and my days of protest-dancing in the mean streets of beachfront Miami are long gone.
D: Additionally, any capitalist worth his salt will identify the sharp anti-business angle forcibly shoehorned into an otherwise cuddly, Grease-ish plot. Stop development? Of a mixed-use hotel complex? In a neighborhood whose main export appears to be umbrella’d cocktails and the protracted pelvis wigglin’ of hardbodies? In this economy? For shame! Maybe the latte-sipping writers of this potential monstrosity see job creation as a bad thing, and actually prefer the orchestration of simulated coitus to community growth and property value appreciation. You are right to compare it with Footloose. But that film’s Rev. Shaw Moore waged a crusade against the unholiness of dance itself, and its effect on humanity’s private parts. In our case, the minds behind Step Up: Revolution expect us to grapple with dance’s effect on private enterprise. As an American, I refuse.
J: Dan, you’re making a mistake! Can’t you see that rich white dude Peter Gallagher is THE BAD GUY? Didn’t you see Sex, Lies, and Videotape? (Note to hardbodies: if you can find that videotape, you can blackmail Peter Gallagher and save the neighborhood!) I mean, I enjoy a beachfront timeshare as much as the next Caucasian, but it makes me uncomfortable cheering for uber-white corporate goons against the United Colors of Benetton dancers, aka The Mob™ and their slickly branded riot shields.
Even worse, the forces of private enterprise have deployed pop-n-lock cops who look suspiciously like T-1000 liquid metal robots from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Also bad!
At the very least, I hope we can agree that the plucky heroine of The Mob™ has the best pull quote from the trailer, “Enough with performance art!”
D: Agreed — and in light of our leading lady’s dismissal of “performance art”, the trajectory of the entire Step Up series becomes clear, allowing us to conclusively predict the final film and eventual payoff: Step Up 5: Rioting & Looting. Having defeated increasingly nefarious villainy in the first four installments (the expectations of a stuffy art school director, the stigma of prancing street gangs, two-dimensionality, and Big Lodging, respectively), the gyrating gaggle turn their rhythmic crosshairs on SOCIETY ITSELF. As they’re no longer able to sway public sentiment with their heart-warming chutzpah, The Mob™ abandon both the synchronization and artistry of dance in favor of a more direct, less rehearsed activity known as complete chaos. Without conceding too many spoilers, SU5: Rioting & Looting ends with the troupe dead, much of South Florida a smoking crater, and millions of impressionable movie-going teens texting each other, “OMG, have u heard of rioting???”
J: OMG indeed! Thanks for distilling the arc of the Step Up franchise; previously I had assumed this was a film adaptation of the Dance Dance Revolution video game.
Personally, I am all for abandoning the synchronization and artistry of dance. I mean, dancing is fine, but like many other bodily functions, I don’t want to pay to see people doing it. Am I impressed when stilts-guy does a flip? Yes. Do I want to see the entire plot of a movie danced out before my very eyes? No. Certainly a wide range of emotions and actions can be expressed through dance, but the same can be said of emoticons and mime [shudder].
But I guess dancing is all that these kids have going for them. Cutting straight to the crisis of identity at the heart of the movie, chief dance-boy says this about The Mob’s increasingly desperate shenanigans: “It’s like us saying, ‘Listen up–we exist.'” But when we see the gyrating gaggle cluster around an iPhone to check their “twenty thousand hits,” it’s obvious that their entire existence consists of cell phone videos posted on the internet. Nobody watches their flashmob antics save through a cameraphone lens. Are we witnessing the death of live performance in this scene? The evolution of cinema? The rebirth of Existentialism?
Step Up: Revolution has much to teach us, and I pray that we as a post-postmodern society can put down our smartphones long enough to learn. But we’ll have to hurry, because Dan’s right–there is no way this ridiculous movie is going to last more than a week in theaters.